Summer is here and for many kids they will experience the joy of catching fireflies!
Fireflies – they catch our attention because they light up in the dark! They glow in short bursts, creating moments of light. And it is fascinating!
If anyone has made a firefly ring, then you know that it’s their guts – what’s inside them – that makes them burn.
The same is true for us – we will burn with the same thing that is inside us!
What is in inside us?
Love of Christ, or Anger.
Anger is a problem we all face…
We all face anger. There are plenty of wrong kinds of anger and only one kind of right anger. Let’s talk about the anger that is not healthy for us:
First there is: RAGE, or anger without a cause. Sometimes we just get angry and we don’t have any reason to be. We have a bad day and we want to take it out on someone else. We yell at the kids and kick the cat. We are angry because things are not going the way we want them to. We become short-tempered!
Proverbs 14:17 (NLT) - Short-tempered people do foolish things…
When we have a short fuse, we must control our rage.
You say, "Why, I just can’t control my temper. It gets away from me." But you can. Have you ever found yourself engaged in a heated discussion with your voice getting louder & your words becoming more rapid? Then the telephone rings & you say, "Hello." Sure, you can control your temper.
If we have a short fuse, we’re going to do a lot of foolish things. When we lose our temper we’ll say things we know we shouldn’t have said, & do things that we’re going to be sorry for later on.
Will Rogers said, "Whenever you fly into a rage, you seldom make a safe landing." And he is right.
Then there is: WRATH – This is a common saying, “Don’t get mad, get even”. But the problem is that we are incapable of handling the situation correctly. I've never met anyone that laid a smack down and thought, "that was the right thing to do!" Wrath is anger that seeks revenge.
The problem with wrath, beside the fact that vengeance is supposed to be God's alone, is that wrath is always accompanied by an unforgiving spirit. Wrath is always a sign that you don't forgive.
There is also: RESENTMENT – Resentment is anger when someone is holding a grudge. It is an anger that the person suppresses over a long period of time and allows to quietly smolder down inside them. It doesn't blowup, it clams up.
As it lays deep in a person and is nurtured. Eventually it turns into self pity that turns to bitterness. This bitterness just stays there, day after day after day.
One of the classic passages that deals with anger is found in Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV) - Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
You come home after someone at the office ticked you off. You’re carrying a chip on your shoulder, just waiting for someone to knock it off. Then your wife says something you don’t particularly appreciate, & soon heated words are being exchanged. It really doesn’t amount too much, but you’re determined to get your way, & she is determined to get her way. So the argument continues.
The sun goes down & nighttime comes. Then in bed she faces that way & you face this way, & you both make very sure that you don’t touch each other.
Do you realize what has happened? The Bible says that you have opened the door, & said, "Mr. Devil, come right on in. We’ll make you welcome here."
Rage, wrath, and resentment are dangerous! We’ve got to remember that anger is just one letter short of danger.
1. Suppress it – This is usually a form of denial. Most usually, people who “stuff” their anger have seen or felt the destructive power of anger and being "gun shy" of it, they try to avoid it. They just paint anger invisible and they think it's gone. But is it?
You can not just simply hide anger, because anger will not be ignored. It will bubble up until it becomes a boil!
Proverbs 19:19 (NIV) - A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty...
If you try to stuff it, it has been proven that you are more at risk for heart attacks, enhanced strokes, elevated blood pressure, migraines, tense muscles, an ulcers.
By suppressing anger, we think we bury it dead. Actually, we are burying it alive. It sooner or later rises from its grave in another form. Nothing can take place in the body without it affecting everything else about us. This should not be an option for us.
2. The other option is to Express it – but we must express it properly. This is where our text today from James comes in. Let’s read James 1:19-21. READ
James tells us that we’ve got a choice: either allow our wrath to cancel out God’s goodness in our lives, OR follow what the Bible says and have our souls saved!
Which do you think is the better option?
In order for us to lay aside the rage, wrath, and resentment (This wickedness that can overflow in our lives), we must do three things to handle our anger properly:
First, LISTEN – be swift to hear
In other words, seek to hear God. When you are angry, there is something that you don’t want to do – listen!
But when we are angry, we have to start hearing from God. This is the exact moment when we need Him the most!
When we are in a situation where we are angry, we usually don’t want to hear two things: what the other person has to say, nor someone’s advice. We especially don’t want someone to start quoting Scripture at us.
But this is exactly what we need! We need to quickly turn to Scriptures and start hearing how God wants us to respond in grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness.
BUT, what usually happens is that we become so blind with rage that we miss the chance for God to work through His Scripture in our lives.
That’s why your first instinct might be to lash out, but James says, step back! Be swift to hear what God can do in this situation.
What does listening produce? Well, 1 John 1:1-4 is a perfect example of what can happen if we become swift to hear.
1 John 1:1-4 (NLT) - We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.
FELLOWSHIP & JOY! That is what happens when you are swift to hear!
Second, SLOW DOWN! Be slow to speak and slow to wrath!
Usually when we speak out of our anger, a lot of words come out that we don’t mean. It’s like someone turned us into something we are not and we name call, cuss, and try to hurt people with words. James is telling us to stop being dumb with our words! Stop acting like you don’t have a mind and control your anger!
Proverbs 16:23 (GN) - Intelligent people think before they speak.
Slow down before you talk and slow down before your wrath comes out!
We believe that we can’t help it when that something seems to come alive in us. There is this vigorous beast that swells up and we want to fight! This anger that James is talking about is the absence of awareness. There is no deliberation. This is a person who has lost their head!
The command is to SLOW DOWN! And when he tells us to slow down, he also tells us how to do it: Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
You want to get rid of you anger? Do two things: Lay aside sin and receive the Word.
Usually when we are filled with anger, it is a sign that there is other areas of our lives that are not in check. There is some moral depravity, vice, wickedness, unforgiveness, hatefulness, or broken relationship that is eating at us. Either we have been hiding some guilt or we are gripped with fear of losing someone. We try to hold on to these feelings and they make us filthy.
It’s like trying to carry a muddy dog across a yard with out getting yourself filthy. You WILL wind up dirty by carrying it!
James says to lay aside this filth. Come clean with the impurity.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV) - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But, when we let this go, there is a second step. When we let go of the brokenness, there is a hole that is left. James wants us to fill the crack with God’s Word. He says, “Lay aside the filth and receive the implanted word.”
This means that once we have confessed and allowed God to clean us up, we have to start something new in our lives: we have to start listening, reading, hearing, or studying the Word of God.
You want your faith to grow? You want your faith to grow so large that it can tackle that beast called anger? Here’s how it grows:
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) - So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
We have to allow the Word to become planted in our hearts so that the full power of God can have its way with our anger and wrath.
James tells us that the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Do you know what the term “does not” in Greek means? Right! It means “does not”! There is no way that human anger can ever result in integrity, uprightness, love, and holiness.
James is saying that anger should be our nuclear option. It should only go off when there is no other option.
Proverbs 16:32 (NRSV) - One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.
WHY IT’S HARD
1. It takes CONSTANT vigilance.
Maybe you think that to put aside your anger will take a cliché. We all have heard the cliché, “Forgive and Forget!”, but let me remind you that this is not in the Bible. You will remember, and yet God calls you to lay aside your anger.
One husband said, “Every time my wife and I have an argument she gets historical.” “You mean hysterical?” his friend replied. “No historical! She remembers everything I’ve done wrong!”
You can put a knife in a man and draw it out and bandage him up. It won’t matter how many times you say, “I’m sorry,” the scar will still be there.
God is the only one I know that has the power to forget! God said:
Hebrews 8:12 (NIV) - For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Man can’t do this, so it takes constant vigilance. You might be sincere when you say, “I forgive you.”, but that doesn’t mean you are able to forget it. If you’ve ever been hurt deeply, you know that putting away your anger is not an instant decision, but a process.
Too many soldiers come back from war and are devastated. They want to come back to civilian life and lead a normal God-fearing and country-loving life. But their marriage crumbles, and their anger surges, and their life falls apart. They may have been excellent soldiers on the battle field, but at home, they can’t control their anger.
Why? Because they remember. They remember the pain, the death, and the scars they saw and felt. They must come home and learn to be as vigilant as they were on the battle field against the enemy within. They can not allow the beast of anger to rise up and hurt them.
When we are hurt, we must be as vigilant against our anger as they were on the battle field. This is no easy task.
2. It goes AGAINST our carnal nature.
When I am wronged, I instinctly want to retaliate. That’s my human nature. If you hit me, I want to hit back. If you go the spend limit in the fast lane, I want to swerve around you and slow down to a crawl. If you insult me, I want to insult you back.
When our pride is wounded, our sense of justice demands retaliation. “You’ll never get away with this. I’ll get even with you if it’s the last thing I do. I will get even!” Did you ever stop to think how stupid it is to say, “I’ll get even with you?” You’re saying, “You are no good, as low as a snake, and I’m going to be just like you!” Somebody said, “Man is a strange creature. He tries to get ahead of his friends and even with his enemies.”
3. It requires TRUST in God’s Timing
Romans 12:19 (ESV) - Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
God says, “Look, I’ll see to it that people will reap what they sow. If you’ve been wronged, put away your malice and be patient. I’ll make the offender pay!”
But we have a hard time trusting that God’s promise is true, or perhaps we just get impatient and want justice right away. Forgiveness requires trust that God will bring about justice in His time.
A pastor named A.W. Tozer said, “The wheels of God’s justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” When you get angry and lash out, you throw a monkey wrench into the wheels of God’s justice. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord! That takes trust and patience!
Is there a time when we can become angry? Resentment is not a good kind of anger. Nor is wrath, nor rage. Is there a good type of anger?
Well, the Bible says that at one point Jesus was angry. If He became angry, then there must be a time when anger is not a sin. Jesus was filled with what is called: INDIGNATION. The only anger that is allowed is indignation.
This is the anger that rises up in us as a result of seeing someone or something of importance to us being mistreated or suffering an injustice. Indignation anger is free from rage, resentment, and retaliation. It's a healthy anger that is aimed at the problem and not the person. It's anger for the right reason and expressed in the right way. It's a controlled anger that is meant to be corrective and constructive.
Mark 3:1-6 reveals the kind of thing that triggered indignation in Jesus. READ
The Pharisees had lost their compassion for others. They didn’t care for the condition of the man with the withered hand. All that mattered was maintaining legalistic obedience to the letter of the Law. They believed their traditions were more important than easing the pain or meeting the needs of another human being. They had forgotten that "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." Mark 2:27.
Jesus looks at them in anger. He is stirred with indignation at what He sees in them. He sees no compassion and a bunch of rules. Notice how Jesus expresses His anger:
• He did not explode in a rage.
• He did not call down fire from heaven on them in wrath.
• He did not allow resentment anger to smolder down inside Him.
• AND He didn't ignore His anger.
Jesus chose to deal with His anger. Jesus chose to show us how to handle anger. He didn't respond in a way that would allow the Pharisees to fight back. He focused on the problem and solved it.
Indignation will do that. It is the only type of anger that Scripture allows. Any anger that rises up in us filled with rage, wrath, or resentment must be immediately challenged – it is destructive anger. Anger that comes as a result of righteous indignation must be cultivated, because it is a constructive anger that God can use to compel us to action to help others.
God wants us free from the anger that hinders us. But there is an indignation that must take place in our lives. Something must stir us from our slumber about ourselves. We are people of wrath, rage, and resentment. We must not be OK with this and come to grips with the damage that these cause in our lives. Our indignation must become greater than ungodly anger, so that we can act and change our lives. Change is hard and it will take a holy anger for you to submit your life to Christ.
Maybe an infusion of Godly anger is the very thing that the church needs. To become angry at the corruption of the world. To become angry at the forces of evil. To become angry at pornography that reaches into every segment of society. To become angry at the millions of abortions. To become angry at the increase in crime & murders & rapes. To become angry at the abuse of alcohol & drugs in our society. To become angry because there are millions of people who are dying & going to a Christless graves
It is time for the church to become angry, with a sanctified anger, a holy indignation, that moves us to action.
You know, fireflies do not sustain their light. They are only "ON" for a short while. They burn a few seconds and then the lights go out.
What God offers is something totally different. God offers a life that is on fire!
We are just like a firefly, we will burn with the same thing that is inside us!
What is in inside us?
Anger or the Love of Christ.